In the latest instalment of the fight between Epic Games and Apple over App Store payments, there were hints that the Fortnite creator may be on the losing side — but they won’t find out until well into 2021.
On Tuesday morning (Australian time), lawyers for both companies appeared at a hearing in California for Epic Games’ lawsuit that claims Apple is breaking antitrust laws.
To recap: in early August, Epic Games implemented its own in-app payment system in Fortnite. This allowed users to buy directly from Epic and not through the App Store, which would earn Apple a 30% fee.
Apple responded by removing the game from the App Store and threatened to remove the company’s Unreal Engine too — a move that was blocked by the court later that month. The company said the game was removed because “Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple”.
As soon as Apple kicked Epic Games out, the company launched a very public campaign — complete with a 1984 video homage that was played in game — before launching its lawsuit.
What are the latest developments in Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple?
And that brings us to today: Epic laid out its arguments that Apple using its monopolistic power to act in an anti-competitive way. The company claims that extracting a 30% fee while not giving users any other way to install applications is an abuse of its power. This 30% fee, they said, is too high and they wish to use their own payment method and App Store instead.
Epic Games’ lawyers also argued that the decision to remove Fortnite had caused the company “irreparable harm”.
In response, Apple said Epic Games had caused it’s own harm: after all, they had made the decision to violate the App Store rules.
Apple’s lawyers argued that 30% fee is standard across the the industry, and the decision to only allow downloads through the App Store is a feature and not a bug. Users buy Apple products and use their services, the company’s lawyers claimed, because of this security feature and not in spite of it.
While this was just an initial hearing, Justice Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers knocked back some of Epic Games’ arguments. She disputed that Epic Games had been worse off from the legal stoush, claiming that the campaign has helped the company’s reputation.
Closing the hearing, Gonzalez Rogers recommended that the case go to a jury trial in July 2021. But she’s expected to make a decision about whether Apple must allow Fortnite back into the App Store in the interim in the next few days.
Most of all, Gonzalez Rogers seemed to relish the legal battle.
“I think this is going to be a fascinating trial, frankly. Because each of these experts makes a compelling argument,” Gonzalez Rogers said.
That makes two of us.